Kenny Dalglish has finally got his man in Spanish former Newcastle left-back Jose Enrique after a cat-and-mouse transfer saga which seems to have been going on since before the dawn of time. But what can Liverpool fans expect from their new signing?
Enrique has been one of Newcastle's best players since struggling with both form and fitness in their relegation season of 2008-09. Strong, fast and difficult to beat, he's a formidable barrier to opposing wide men. He gets up and down the pitch well and formed an important link-up with Argentinian winger Jonas Gutierrez, their clever short-passing interplay and movement possibly being Newcastle's most important attacking route for some time now and I see no reason why his partnership with Downing can’t be superior to that coupling. Despite his obvious physical prowess, technical ability, involvement high up the pitch and impressive play generally, he rarely manages to score or assist in creating a goal. To say he flatters to deceive would be harsh, but perhaps the end product doesn't always match the approach play.
Bale, Baines, Cole and Evra are all still superior Premier League performers in his position
He's undoubtedly good on the ball, and perhaps that contributes to his main fault. Brought up in a footballing culture which views hoofing it into the stand as anathema, he will attempt to play the ball out in every situation. It almost seems a matter of pride to him. A touch of overconfidence, even arrogance, added to a sometimes casual attitude means a suicidally misplaced pass close to goal is in no way an unusual occurrence. He was responsible for a number of goals given away needlessly like this last season. In a way it's reminiscent of another ex-Newcastle defender, Titus Bramble. Like Titus, Jose has every attribute required to be a top-class performer in his position, but a lack of concentration at important moments crops up too often and cancels out all the previous good work. Eventually Newcastle tired of waiting for Bramble to cut the errors from his game, and though Enrique couldn't be said to be leaving on the club's terms like Bramble did, Enrique too shows no sign of removing this fault from his all-round game either.
Enrique is a left-sided attacking full-back who is also a capable defender, a rare combination in today's game, and something Liverpool in particular have been missing for some years. Dalglish has plugged a gap with this signing, but he's not the finished article, not a world-class defender yet. Bale, Baines, Cole and Evra are all still superior Premier League performers in his position. To truly reach the standard both he and Dalglish obviously think he can achieve, he must knock some rough edges from his game, specifically ridding himself of the habit of giving the ball to the opposition in and around his own penalty area. Newcastle fans know they've lost a very good player for roughly the same price they paid for him when he was a far less accomplished performer, so in that sense Liverpool already have a bargain. If he can cut out those lapses in concentration they'll have the bargain of this or any other season.
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